Orkidz begins to blossom 

New business offers arts and crafts classes for Whistler’s creative kids


Just one day after her first arts and crafts class, Layna Mawson is grinning ear-to-ear, eyes shining, as she talks about the four students who came out to make boxes and blow bubbles at her new studio space.

"There are some that will just sit there and have their head down and keep working. Then there are the jellybeans jumping around next to them, that are like, 'OK, I'm finished!'" she said with a laugh.

Though Mawson launched her new business a few short weeks ago, it's been a bit slow going so far, at least in comparison to her last business venture, Sachi Sushi, which developed an almost-instant base of loyal customers.

"I think the concept is new to the area, so I think a few more kids have to give it a try," she said.

Mawson has set up shop for Orkidz Art Studio in Function Junction, holding a whole host of classes for kids of all ages - and even some for crafty adults - with projects ranging from painting and scrapbooking to rug hooking, at a cost of 10 to $30 for single sessions.

On top of the regular schedule of classes, she's also offering kids' birthday parties, allowing parents to drop the birthday boy or girl and friends off for a crafting session of their choice before returning to wrap up with their own cake and presents.

As much as the classes are designed to be stimulating and exciting for the kids, Mawson has also been very conscious of ensuring they're convenient for the parents; each of the classes are between two and a half and three hours long so moms and dads can run errands or get in a session at the gym, and she's scheduled them for times that aren't already booked with typical sports activities, like soccer on Saturday mornings.

"I'm not a parent, but I have a lot of friends that are, so its been really great to get their feedback," she added.

She's also asking interested parents to leave comments and ideas in the suggestion box of her website, www.orkidzartstudio.com .

"I need it to work for the community or it isn't going to work for any of us."

Mawson actually tried to hold her first classes at the studio on a professional day a few weeks ago, but didn't receive any interest from parents at that time.

"But the word obviously got out, because people knew that something was out there - there was a buzz around the town about it, even though the phone didn't ring," she added.

She held her first class earlier this week with a group of four.

"I had three six year olds and a 10 year old, and it actually worked out pretty good. It looked like they were having fun!" she laughed.

They painted and glitter-glued boxes, and proudly presented them to their parents, afterwards.

"It's been a while since I've worked with children in a structured environment like that," Mawson said.

This lady has a session passion for crafting. Over the years, she's amassed a collection of arts and crafts supplies - toilet paper rolls, tissue and wrapping paper and much more - that she's recently cleared out of her home and moved to the new studio space.

"I've always had the idea in my head, since I was little, that want to do arts and crafts for the rest of my life, but then life gets in the way," she said.

Mawson actually has a background in community recreation leadership, working on Parks and Playgrounds in Vancouver developing programs for kids.

"Then Expo 86 hit town, and that's when travel tourism took off - I went that route and decided that I needed to make the money and had to have the great car, and arts and crafts wasn't going to do that for me," she grinned. "But I always stayed true to my hobbies, and I was always dibbling and dabbling, whether it was rug hooking or painting, sewing or photography."

Since then, she's worked in the travel and hotel industry before finally starting Sachi Sushi with her husband and another business partner five years ago. They just recently sold their share of the successful business and now things are starting to come full-circle again for Mawson with this creative new endeavour.

"I wanted to do something that I loved, and it always comes back to arts and crafts, kids, and working with the community," she said.

In the future, she hopes to expand her offerings to include summer camps and out-call classes to conferences and events, and to be able to hire staff to help her handle larger groups of kids.

"Now, it's kind of almost like a rebirth, like I'm getting back to the things that I love."



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